Guillermo Gómez-Peña visits Wheaton College

In the Watson Fine Arts Experimental Theatre on March 21, 2018, a solo tour production of El border brujo was performed by Guillermo Gómez-Peña. He is a performance artist of 30-plus years and also dabbles in other fields of occupation such as activism, writing and education. In his work, Gómez-Peña likes to draw on his ethnic background as a Chicano (Mexican American), with all of the racial prejudices and injustice attached. Furthermore, he is known to be abstract and highly unconventional in these ideas, which showed in his performance at Wheaton.

To begin the night, a cheeky opening statement and list of trigger warnings was recited to the audience. Then, a serenade of Mexican hard-rock music played as Gómez-Peña came out of the shadows and into the spotlight. He took a can of spray deodorant out and chanted in a made-up language, as he often does, before the show went on.

A few of the topics Gómez-Peña spoke about were related to politics, including democracy, President Trump and war. His commentary and material were raw, even to the point of nearly insulting those in the crowd; these were plays on stereotypes and prejudgment. However, as the night ended, there was a feeling of hope in the air with the emergence of audience participation.

The following day, Gómez-Peña held a workshop for students on campus to learn about performance art. It was a particularly special event for those who learned about him in their drama or playwriting class with Professor Charlotte Meehan, who organized Gómez-Peña’s visit. A few of the accounts from this experience mention practices of starring and closing the eyes to find a holistic meaning by it all. One student who attended the workshop, Lily Goneau ’20, stated, “I discovered how to think openly and creatively in a way that spoke to modern events and myself, while reaching a new audience by working with both mind and body like he had and continues to do in his spoken word performances.”

It is very important to have visiting artists like Gómez-Peña at our college. He proved to be a relevant and inspirational source for education in the conversations of politics and society in both Americas.